Google Told By French Regulator To Pay For Re-using News Or Content

Google is facing the prospect of paying for French content and news, after a ruling by France’s competition authority.

According to Reuters, the ruling means that Google will have to pay French news agencies and publishing firms for re-using their content

It reported that the ruling by the French ‘Autorite de la Concurrence’ body, followed an earlier complaint by several unions representing French press publishers regarding Google’s practices.

French ruling

“Google’s practices caused a serious and immediate harm to the press sector, while the economic situation of publishers and news agencies is otherwise fragile, and while the law aimed on the contrary at improving the conditions of remuneration they derive from content produced by journalists,” the watchdog reportedly said in a statement.

It ordered Google to begin talks with media groups demanding payment when the search giant displays their content.

The regulator reportedly said it “requires Google, within three months, to conduct negotiations in good faith with publishers and news agencies on the remuneration for the re-use of their protected contents.”

Google France has reportedly responded and said that since the European copyright law came into force in France last year, it has been engaging with publishers to increase its support and investment in news.

Google France state it would comply with the French order while it reviews the ruling and continues its negotiations.

EU Copyright law

Google in September last year had stopped its users in France from being able to view news snippets from European publishers on search results.

That meant that French web users were only be able to see the headlines, and not the first few lines or a thumbnail image for news content, unless of course the publishers specifically gave permission for it to show previews.

That came after the European Union passed a controversial copyright law reform in March 2019.

After a long battle, the European Parliament had backed the copyright reforms that aim to close loopholes that had allowed big tech companies such as Google and Facebook to provide news from third-party sources without paying for it.

The rule change had been intended to curb online firms that were seen as benefiting from copyrighted content at the publishers’ expense.

The European initiative’s Article 11 allows publishers to charge online platforms that feature more than short excerpts of articles.

The change could have a potentially large impact for French publishers, as traditionally publishers have relied on visibility on Google’s websites to drive traffic to their own websites, which in turn boosts the amount of money the publishers can actually charge advertisers, and subscriptions as well.

It remains to be seen how effective the new European copyright reform laws will be. Spain for example tried to implement a similar measure in 2014, but Google simply turned its news service off in that country.

In Germany, meanwhile, Google opted to feature only content from those who agreed to provide it for free.

That resulted in traffic for German publisher Axel Springer plunging, after it sought to block the search engine.

France was one of the first EU countries to implement the bloc’s far-reaching copyright reforms.

French fines

Google has been hit with a number of setbacks in France of late.

In December France’s competition authority fined Google 150 million euros (£128 million), after it Google had engaged in anti-competitive behaviour and had unclear advertising on the Google Ads page.

That came after Google in September 2019 agreed to pay French authorities nearly 1 billion euros (or $1.1bn) to settle a fiscal fraud probe that began four years ago.

That settlement comprises a fine of 500 million euros and additional taxes of 465 million euros.

And in January 2019 Google was slapped with a 50 million euro (£44m) fine for breaking EU privacy laws in France.

The fine, issued by the France’s data protection office (CNIL), found the US search engine guilty “for lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding the ads personalisation.”

And in 2019, France also implemented a digital tax on tech giants such as Google and Facebook, amid outrage at the levels of tax these firms pay in local markets.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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